“I have learned that certain events in our lives happen for a reason; there is unquestionably a plan set into
motion that brings us to who we are
and who we become.”
Joan Wyllie’s Story
I have always been blessed with a very high level of energy. I had taken very good care of myself in regards to eating properly and exercising. As I reflect, I most likely did not get enough rest, as I was a bit of a “workaholic,” but I loved my work and being productive. My favorite pastime was spending time with my nine grandchildren and family. Life was very good to say the least. I was 62 and feeling wonderfully! Then my life changed dramatically.
During October of 2007, I gradually began experiencing a series of unusual symptoms including:
Bloating Exhaustion Pelvic & bladder pressure Thickening of waistline Feeling of fullness Severe Constipation Slight to severe abdomen pain
As these symptoms progressed, I sought the advice of two physicians both of whom told me the problem was either intestinal or urinary dysfunction. None of the medications they prescribed were effective. As time passed, my symptoms increased in severity to the point where I could no longer carry on my daily life.
December of 2007, I met with a very dear young friend of mine for dinner. We talked for over three hours as I expressed some concerns I was having with regard to the direction of my life. I was not sure what was happening. I felt as though something major was missing in my life. I felt very guilty for having these feelings. I truly did not understand why, as I had a life overflowing with blessings, a wonderful husband, three beautiful adult married children and nine healthy, precious grandchildren. I had an extended loving family and friends. What was happening to me? I have to believe I am not the only woman who has gone through this at some point in her life.
Soon after this conversation with my friend, and under slightly unusual circumstances, I unexpectedly received a book as a gift called “The Shack”. Unknowingly, this book prepared me for a journey I was about to take and it literally changed my life. I have learned that certain events in our lives happen for a reason; there is unquestionably a plan set into motion which brings us to who we are and who we become. My life was about to go through a major transformation. I now know this change was definitely a welcome blessing in disguise. The magnitude of what was about to happen to me was beyond my wildest dreams. Besides being so very grateful for the fact that I was blessed as a wife, mother and grandmother, I now know why I was put on this earth. My life had a new “PURPOSE,” and I had been truly fortunate and welcomed this realization.
A couple of months had passed and I was becoming very ill. Over a period of SIX months I sought the advice of NINE physicians ranging in specialties from gynecology, urology, gastrointestinal and even a psychologist. My patience was wearing very thin when finally the last doctor handed me a prescription for a drug that would “tell my head to tell my stomach to stop hurting.” I had finally reached the end of my patience! I then made the decision to become my own advocate and insisted on laparoscopic surgery. On February 29, 2008, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Stage 4.
I was shocked, but definitely not afraid. What I had learned from the book “The Shack” had prepared me for the news. In fact, I consoled the doctor after he gave me the news, and told him “not to worry, I would be fine”! The next morning, while still in my hospital bed, after many tears were shed and the initial shock wore off, my family and I went into high gear. We immediately scheduled an appointment with a “Gynecological Oncologist.” Little did we know at the time, and by the grace of GOD, the doctor we were directed to was one of the most renowned doctors in his field. GOD was undeniably watching over me. At the time we were not even aware of the fact that one of the most critical issues that surround obtaining possible remission is finding the most talented Gynecological Surgeon possible.
On March 19, 2008, I survived a seven hour surgery that resulted in the removal of four inches of my colon, my complete omentum, both tumor-engorged ovaries, hundreds of tumors throughout my abdomen and many cancerous lymph nodes. The doctor estimated that he had removed approximately 90% of the cancer. He informed us that hopefully the chemotherapy would rid my body of the remaining cancer, “but there were no guarantees.”
After a long recuperation, six challenging chemotherapy sessions, intense chemotherapy treatments, additional stays in the hospital for complications and numerous trips to the emergency room, I am now extremely proud to say “I HAVE BEEN DANCING WITH NED” (NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE) since September, 2008. This is a miracle! I had beaten the odds! I continue to have an MRI every six months and my Ca125 blood work performed along with an internal exam every three months for the rest of my life. Without my husband, family, friends, my doctor, my new found surviving sisters and GOD’S strength I am not sure I would have come so far. “Somehow we make it, and realize we are stronger than we know ourselves to be.”
Most importantly through my experiences, I have learned the alarming lack of knowledge and awareness among women and physicians alike, regarding the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. This became very clear to my family and me over the SIX month period with NINE physicians misdiagnosing my symptoms. Less than six weeks prior to my diagnosis, the last Doctor to examine me actually stated, “your ovaries are the size of raisins, don’t worry they are fine!”
Unfortunately, there is an enormous lack of funds available for research to develop a concrete test and a cure for this horrific disease. Approximately 95% of all women diagnosed are usually in late stage, as was I. Most of these women do not know where to turn for support and or medical treatment. This is unacceptable and we all must gather together by raising funds that will facilitate the development of an early screening test and hopefully a cure for this devastating disease. Unfortunately time and experience has proven to us that the real challenge comes when and if a woman recurs. We must have resources available to these women to offer them options, as every woman is unique and responds to treatment for recurrence differently. We are currently conducting research and gathering information to provide to these women, in the hopes their physicians will work with them in allowing them to be an active participant in regards to choosing their treatment. We demand options!
In response to my new found “PURPOSE” my family and I have formed a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. We have named it, Nine Girls Ask? for a cure for Ovarian Cancer,! The name of our organization originated from the fact that I, along with my three daughters and five granddaughters total nine. The nine of us demand to know “Why there is neither a test nor cure for Ovarian Cancer.” No woman should have to endure what I and so many other brave women continue to experience. One in fifty five women are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and approximately 350 women succumb to this disease every week of every year. Unfortunately it is among the most incurable forms of all women’s cancers. We must make a difference!
If my story sounds familiar to you in anyway, or you may have experienced any of the above symptoms, diagnosis or illness. Please recognize this journey will give you so much more than it can ever take from you. Acknowledge it as a GOD given blessing that has, or will change your life in a wonderful, beautiful spiritual manner. Above all remember YOU are in control and this disease cannot take anything from you if you do not allow it. GOD has a beautiful plan already set in motion for you to follow. Just grab his hand and hold on tight and treasure the moments to come. Embrace and learn from them. Happily hand over your fears and worries to HIM, he is waiting for them with open arms. Make this journey exceptional by helping others in your same situation. Make this experience count for something grand and meaningful. Don’t give up or let go. This is my wish for you. Make this your “PURPOSE!”
GOD has given me the strength, drive, love and ambition to set my “PURPOSE” in motion and you have the powers within you to do the same.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I, along with all members of my organization are here to help you, anytime of any day. May your day be filled with much Health, Joy and Blessings!
“I SEE CANCER THROUGH THE EYES OF LIFE!”
Joan WyllieCEO and Founder, Nine Girls Ask
Tax ID #26-3637035
“I shall pass this way but once. Any good that I can do, any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect, for I shall not pass this way again.”